30 June 2015


There is a sequence b–d–n... in the Tasmanian language records. There are many examples of it. 

Here are a few such records:

Fig. 1 ‘little’

From these it would seem that badani / budini and the like might signify ‘little’.

budinibuwid is ‘little’.
badani is ‘child’, and a child is something little.
bayaDini bunguDini luguDinini appears to be ‘little possum xxx’.

And there is confirmation that luguDini in this phrase means ‘possum’:

Fig. 2 ‘ringtailed possum’

From this it would seem that badani, or words of the b–d–n...  sequence, means ‘little.
Even the 5th and last record in Fig. 1 above lends weight to the idea: badinuyiru might mean the little voice of whispering. However, the records did not bear this idea out.

Rat kangaroo
The ‘little’ hypothesis would appear to be supported, at first sight’ by ‘rat kangaroo’:

Fig. 3 ‘rat kangaroo’

nanabaDina is, apparently, ‘little rat kangaroo’, suggesting that badina is ‘little’, and thus that nana might be ‘rat kangaroo’.
So in which case, in the top record, what is rubrana? The 4th record in Fig. 3 suggests that rubrana or ribrinana itself means ‘rat kangaroo’. A search for nina or nana yielded nothing to indicate that nana / nina meant ‘rat kangaroo’.

Further b–d–n... records pop up in the ‘Tasmanian’ Bayala database, all to do with birds:

Fig. 4 ‘birds’

The first of this new set of records in Fig. 4 tends to support the ‘little’ theory: badina means ‘egg’, and eggs are little. A swan’s egg, buradina, is morphologically close, and might also be regarded as ‘little’, thus justifying a loose or mis-translation of 'little' as 'egg'.

But the ‘little' hypothesis is virtually exploded anew when it is noticed that most of the other bird records end in the the b–d–n... sequence. They can hardly all mean ‘little’. 
The last, badanawunda, ‘emu’, begins with the b–d–n... sequence.
From this one might reasonably ask: could badana be something to do with fauna?

Support for the fauna concept is provided by the following group of records:

Fig. 5’ fauna’

Bandicoot, respelt badina or bayaDina, is grouped with 'kangaroo' nabiDinina in this new b–d–n... collection. ‘Fauna’ begins to appear a real possibility.

A ‘den’ in the 4th record in Fig. 5 is a home for fauna, the details of this particular record being:

Fig. 6 ‘den’

budina in Fig. 6, meaning ‘cave’, is is not strictly fauna, although it is certainly fauna asociated, in the meaning of ‘den’.

The last two records of Fig.5 'fauna’ are other mammals, ‘whiteman’ and ‘boy’.

And after all this we are not able confidently to assert a meaning for the b–d–n... sequence.
One final example lends no further help.

There is only one flora example so far identified in the database:

Fig. 7 ‘flora’

dinbudina, ‘tea-tree’ completes this ultimately inconclusive search for a significance of the b–d–n... sequence.

Perhaps a reader of this tentative essay might be able to suggest something enlightening.

Jeremy Steele

Tuesday 30 June 2015

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